Intranet Now in Three Themes

Intranet Now continues to be one of the best conferences out there. Whether you’re a dedicated Intranet Professional, or you work in Internal Communications, HR, IT, or other business planning or strategic roles – you will find something of use here.

I was lucky enough to help on the day, so if you look at #IntranetNow on Twitter for 7th June you’ll see my notes being broadcast out to the world! My thumbs and Steve Bynghall’s fingers were a blur as we tried to capture as much as we could of the feel of the day, and the great stuff the presenters were coming out with.

I’ve gathered my thoughts from the day into three themes. But what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree, and did you go away with something different?

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One: People matter
“People” was an overwhelmingly common theme for me throughout the day. Yes, we all know we’ve got users on our systems, but a lot of the presentations really focussed on doing things for them.

Jamie Garrett’s keynote speech started the day on this track, by highlighting the need to make a distinction between “employee voice” and “employees with a voice”. He used the example of social topics to draw people onto the intranet for longer, and boost business engagement. One of their biggest customers has found that “menopause” is in the top 10 social groups on their intranet, giving employees a voice and reinforcing a sense of community across the company.

On the flip side Ayesha Graves talked about removing collaborative features. She said that we have to “let it go” – “it” being those features or ideas that we think of so highly as practitioners, but simply don’t work for our users. Build the intranet based on what they truly want, not what we believe they should have.

Nick Allport from South Wales Police (a StepTwo Award winner from 2018) talked about the power of targeting people. They set up hundreds of groups that draw together relevant information, such as rank or station. News, quick links, mandatory read documents and operational announcements are all then tailored to these groups. This has led to almost eradicating corporate email, and the right people are now consistently seeing the right content.

But what happens if people don’t know how to use the site once they get it? Elizabeth Marsh briefly talked about the subject of digital literacy, and the need for us as practitioners to understand what our colleagues are capable of. I’ve already written about this in a little more detail in another blog piece, but it’s such an important subject (and delivered so well) I had to flag it again!

Leading on from this concept, Marion MacKay from Scottish Government spoke about an induction tool that appears the first time someone logs into the intranet. 75% of new starters now personalise their homepage, and 80% of them find the intranet easy to use. This is a brilliant idea that we should probably all consider introducing.

Two: Community matters
The community that we belong to (whatever your department, if you see that value in an intranet then you’re part of this community) is a fantastic one. It’s friendly, knowledgeable, and people genuinely want to help each other. “I spent months on this, but steal it if you want to” isn’t a quote you’ll hear at most conferences (by Mark Tittle when he was demonstrating his incredibly good intranet)!

This sense of community is honoured, not at every Intranet Now but at most, through the organisers handing out the Diamond Award.

This year was the first posthumous award that has ever been given, and this time to Rupert Bowater. I was fortunate enough to meet Rupert a couple of times through my intranet career and was particularly lucky to spend a brilliant evening with him and Lisa Riemers over dinner discussing all sorts of things. I was struck by his willingness to listen, share, and help. He was kind, and he gave me some good advice for the situation I was in at the time. He thoroughly deserved the award and we owe it to him to continue with this feeling of community that we have created. So, on that note…

Rupert Award

Three: Sharing knowledge matters
Not only did Elizabeth come and share her knowledge again on a subject that has involved a huge amount of research, but there were a couple of other returnees. Jesper Bylund has created a phenomenal Governance Game, which can not only help you realise what you need to do to maintain your intranet, but also to argue for more help in a business case. Here’s where you can get it from:

Sam Marshall also spoke, and talked more broadly about how to stick a digital workplace together. He spoke about the feedback that no doubt we’re all familiar with – “why doesn’t the search work like Google?” Well, it’s unlikely to be about the search engine, and more likely to be content, skills and information architecture (not sure if I feel better or worse!). Then once the search brings back results, they should be answers instead of links. This is where micro services could help…

All the other presentations and the workshops were also excellent, and I’m sure many others will be talking about them in their own blog posts. But I want to end by continuing the idea of sharing knowledge. I believe that this is something that we should all work towards within the community and in our businesses. Then beyond that, other departments and teams need to understand the true value of a strong digital workplace. So, here are some links to some of my previous blog posts that I hope will develop skills and knowledge out there already (please share these with anyone you think would benefit):

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